Report: Dancer injured in rehearsal could face life of paralysis

Updated: August 13, 2008, 4:47 AM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- A dancer was injured in a rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and Chinese media reports she could face a life of paralysis.

Beijing organizing committee spokesman Wang Wei on Wednesday confirmed the injury to 26-year-old Liu Yan, but did not confirm reports that she was paralyzed below the waist.

"This is a very private question," Wang said. "I understand that she was seriously injured, but I'm not sure whether she is paralyzed or not. She's hospitalized at this moment."

The accident took place July 27 in a rehearsal at the National Stadium -- also known as the Bird's Nest -- but was reported only this week by several Chinese-language newspapers.

The Shanghai Morning Post said Liu was injured when she fell from a 3-meter (10-foot) stage and later underwent six hours of surgery. The Shanghai newspaper quoted a medical expert saying she was unlikely to walk again without assistance.

The Yangtze Evening News said Liu was practicing to perform as the solo dancer in a part of the Opening Ceremony known as the "Silk Road." She was regarded as one of China's top dancers and won a national competition in 2004, the paper said.

It's not unusual in China for an incident like this to come to light only 2½ weeks after it happened, particularly when it concerns a high-profile event like the Olympics.

Earlier this year, Beijing organizing committee officials were slow to acknowledge the deaths of six workers involved in building venues for the Olympics.

The Aug. 8 Opening Ceremony has received high marks, although Chinese officials were criticized this week for "theatrical effects" which included computer-generated images to help enhance the show's fireworks display for TV viewers around the world.

Officials have also faced questions about the ethics of having a 9-year-old girl appear to sing "Ode to the Motherland" in the Opening Ceremony. Officials later acknowledged the real voice was that of a 7-year-old girl who was deemed not cute enough to participate in the historic event. The 9-year-old's voice was considered not strong enough.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press